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The Hierarchy of Espresso Characteristics

The Hierarchy of Espresso Characteristics

This can be broken down more times than I care to count, so I’ll stick to what I see as the most common characteristics that people have and do refer to when praising a particular blend or shot of espresso.

Crema
1 – quantity
2 – color
3 – texture/consistency
4 – persistence

Quantity
1 – leaning more (i.e.-there’s not enough)
2 – leaning less (i.e. – less is more, ristretto)

Flavor
1 – Balance
2 – sweetness
3 – acidity
4 – body
5 – bitter

Contents
1 – what is the blend comprised of?
2 – consistency: will the blend always taste the same, or will it change with the seasons?
3 – does it contain robusta, or is it a 100% Arabica blend?

Functionality
1 – does it work well in milk drinks? (i.e. – cappuccino, caffe latte, mocha, iced drinks, etc..)
2 – does it work well on its own?
3 – how long does the finish last? (10 minutes? 30 minutes? 1 hour?)
4 – is it interesting? Is it too intense or too boring?
5 – is it finicky? Is it forgiving of barista inconsistency?

This seems like a lot to digest. Like most things, espresso can be as complex or as basic as you allow, dependent entirely on the perspective of the audience. I’ll approach this in chronological order.

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